The feast of the Nativity of Mary, 8 September, was first celebrated in the East by the Church of Jerusalem. In the
fifth century a Byzantine church was erected there, on the spot where a tradition says the house of Sts. Anne and Joachim
once stood. Many believe this to be the very place where the future Mother of the Messiah was conceived and born, and that
church became a focal point for her birthday celebration. The Western Church adopted this joyful feast by the seventh century.
Unfortunately, the original church was decimated during the Crusades. A new church was later built on that spot; this one
still stands today and is a center of pilgrimage. Many people still go there to honor the child Mary.
If the Church celebrated Mary's birth on the eighth of September, then it only seemed natural that her conception would
have occured nine months earlier, on the eighth day of December. Thus Western Christians soon began to celebrate the Feast
of Immaculate Conception on that very day. The Eastern Orthodox, who mostly reject the Immaculate Conception of Mary, celebrate
8 December as the "Conception of St. Anne", that is, the day on which Our Lady's mother conceived her.
The Feast of the Presentation of Mary, 21 November, is very ancient, going back to the sixth century in the East. The West,
however, did not adopt it until the fourteenth century. Since it celebrates Mary's alleged childhood service in the Temple
(a concept derived from apocryphal literature, not Sacred Scripture), many popes were uncomfortable with it, and St. Pius
V even suppressed it for the duration of his pontificate! It was reinstated by Sixtus V and remains on the Western liturgical
calendar to this day. Among Eastern Christians it is one of the thirteen Great Feasts of the Church, often depicted in icons.